Press release from Red Bank Regional High School
“It’s a safe place to let out our opinions and views, where there is mutual respect and we do not judge one another,” states Jorge Benavides of Red Bank.
A senior at Red Bank Regional High School, Jorge is referring to the Teen Outreach Program, or TOP — and as the first RBR student to co-facilitate the nationally acclaimed program in his school, the 17 year old speaks with authority on the subject.
Developed by the Wyman Center, TOP “promotes the positive development of adolescents through a combination of curriculum-guided group discussion and community service learning.” Examples of past RBR community service included a walk for suicide prevention, aiding the victims of Hurricane Sandy and a program supporting the LGBT community.
Freshman participants are recruited for TOP by The SOURCE, RBR’s School Based Youth Services Program. Offering weekly sessions during their lunch and study hall time for most of the school year, the program also runs a section for sophomores and upper classman who chose to continue their participation.
This year, the CJFHC decided to offer training to upper classmen who had been involved with the program since freshman year. Jorge Benavides was the only RBR student who was able to complete the four-day training over the summer, the same program that all adult facilitators take. He was instructed on the history and mechanics of the program and curriculum.
Jorge comments, “I have to figure out ways for each person to become involved. Some are visual learners, others logical and others kinetic. Therefore, I may suggest the visual-learner create posters, which the hands-on or kinetic learner may distribute. The logical learner would help solve problems. We also play music in the background because it also helps some students with their concentration. I think that is something that could be applied in other classes.”
Jorge feels the most difficult part of facilitating is to maintain the “value neutral approach.”
He explains, “As a facilitator you cannot give your opinion; we touch on some controversial subjects; and everyone has different points of view and are from different walks of life. There might be a lot of things being said that you do not agree with, but you can only give them the facts and options of what their actions could generate. As a facilitator you create a feeling of safety. It does also serve to increase your own open-mindedness.”
Jorge has accomplished much with this positive philosophy. He is as a budding commercial artist in RBR’s Visual & Performing Arts’ Academy, majoring in studio art. A member of the National Art Honor Society, Jorge’s career ambition is to work in the animation industry. He has been very active in his own community in helping his alma mater Red Bank Primary school as a teacher’s aide during summer school, and also participated in the shoe drive for the elementary school’s DOC Shop program.
He explains, “My academy requires that I perform 15 hours of community service, but I wanted to do more than that. I always wanted to help people and reach out because the community has helped me and I want to give back.”